Coronavirus: Boris Johnson announces job retention scheme, grant to cover wages

Britain will be helping to pay wages for the first time in its history, committed to paying 80% of wages for employees not working

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a job retention scheme and a grant for employers to cover wages in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government will pay 80% of wages for employees not working for up to £2,500 a month. Self-assessment income payments would be deferred and business interruption loans would be interest-free for a year, rather than the six months previously announced.

In a press conference on Friday, Johnson said no business will pay Value Added Tax until the end of June. This represents a £30 billion injection into the British economy. This is the first time in Britain's history that the government will be helping to pay wages.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the economic intervention he announced is unprecedented but necessary to save lives.

With Britain's 3,269 total number of cases, Johnson has now decided to order a ban on cafés, pubs, bars, and restaurants. 

"We are telling [them] to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not reopen tomorrow. Nightclubs, cinemas, and gyms will do the same," he said, adding that people should stay at home.

Only takeaway joints will remain open.

"We will be able to save literally thousands of lives," he said, if we take actions together and "make sacrifices. We will stand by you." 

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted that the measures to shut pubs and other public spaces were "absolutely essential to do this given the excruciating pressure hospitals, especially in London, are under".

Johnson said in his statement that the measures had been agreed by all devolved governments of the UK.